Sunday, in yoga class, right as we were moving into shavasana, Yogi M talked about self screening. “Feel your balls and know your balls, men. Just like women do a monthly self breast exam, figure out what your testicles should feel like and pay attention to changes. Just start paying attention.” Unusual for a yoga class, not unusual for Ms. M.
We spent the hour talking about Movember. My teach pasted on a fake black moustache and spoke very frankly about men’s health. This Sunday class is made up of men, mostly older than me who are arguably pretty in tune with their bods and probably pretty open to new things. They most likely wouldn’t be doing yoga if they weren’t. So Yogi M had a captive male audience and she captivated the rest of us too. Captivated because I have never heard of men doing self screening tests of their nuts nor did I know the symptoms of an angry prostrate. And captivated also by the staggering statistics of men with depression. This is what Movember is all about: making talk about men’s health an ok thing and increasing understanding of prostrate, testicular cancer and mental health. And along with captivating us, she challenged us too, challenged us to actually do something about all this.
Challenge accepted. Mostly because I have these two little boys who need to understand their bodies and to not be afraid of talking about them. And understand their bodies seriously like I learned to do while playing sports, training for a marathon and dealing with cancer. I also need them to understand that when they are feeling badly they can speak about it safely and understand if it is just a passing blue period or how to deal with it if it is seemingly everlasting. And how all the BS that men and boys “learn” about being men and boys is just that, a lot of macho BS. I also accepted the challenge because I had no complete understanding of what a prostrate is or how testicular cancer primarily affects younger men and because there are a few stars in my galaxy that struggle to shine brightly, and I want to be there and understand and not run.
Thinking beyond my own small world, I accepted Ms. M’s challenge because this is about making us collectively better off. Starting this conversation in a yoga class or in a world wide campaign is a beginning but understanding the importance ourselves and taking action ourselves is the main point. Being more aware and open to talking about these things is a huge first step and if the conversation has to start somewhere, talking about nuts, glands and heads seems like a good place.
My ah hahs from the research that my good yogi provoked:
Prostrate: A small, walnut shaped gland that helps produce semen and surrounds part of the urethra. It gets larger as you age. Symptoms that something might be amiss are peeing more frequently and urgently sometimes with a burning sensation and going often in the middle of the night.
Testicular Self Exam: Small lumps or changes in the size of the testes can often be the first signs that something may be changing. There is a benefit in knowing what your balls feel like so that if there is something strange, you will notice. This is a monthly thing, starting at puberty, just like a breast exam.
Mental Health: Mental health is just as important as physical health and strongly connected. Talking about mental illness will go a long way in reducing the stigma of it, especially for men. The sheer number of people who are affected means that there is someone close to you who suffers. Pay attention and do not be afraid to talk about it.
More on Movember: us.movember.com
Resources and images: National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, Movember website